Dwayne Johnson And Roman Reigns' Rivalry Explained

WrestleMania 39 is in the Mecca of the entertainment industry, Los Angeles, California. WWE prides itself on being the largest promotion in professional wrestling with the biggest superstars available. WrestleMania 39 will be another opportunity to prove that stance. As rumors swirl about a possible WrestleMania match for both John Cena and Steve Austin, there's growing intrigue about a match between Dwayne Johnson, better known as The Rock, and WWE Undisputed Champion, Roman Reigns.

The moment Reigns began to emerge as a future star outside of The Shield, fans wondered if — or when — the two men would meet in the ring. As Reigns enjoys what is a career-defining run as the Head of the Table, those rumblings are even louder. The basis of this storyline is Reigns' absolute determination to prove he's the reason why this family is still relevant in professional wrestling. But with The Rock's shadow of success both in wrestling and in Hollywood, that claim is hard to call his own.

The Rock versus Roman Reigns has more than a victory on the line. These two would compete for the right to be known as the leader of one of professional wrestling's most important family dynasties.

The Anoa'i family dynasty in pro wrestling

Cody Rhodes' theme music starts with "there is more than one royal family in wrestling." That's a correct statement, as the Anoa'i should be included among those ranks.

The Anoa'i family tree predates the WWE and features some names throughout all the top promotions in wrestling. Not only did these individuals take place in promotions that fans would recognize, but they were frequently booked as some of the toughest competitors, and champions along the way. Starting with Sika and Afa of the Wild Samoans back in 1973, up through Zilla Fatu who recently joined Reality of Wrestling, the Anoa'i family continues to be a part of some of the biggest moments throughout wrestling.

Just look at the list of names that adorn the annals of the Anoa'i family photo book. Afa, Sika, Yokozuna, Rousey, Tonga Kid, Umaga, Rikishi, The Usos, are names that WWE fans will recognize. Everyone reached championship status in one way or another. Then individuals like Jacob Fatu made waves in organizations like MLW as one of the most-feared big men on the independent circuit. Roman and The Rock would battle it out for the right to call themselves the best of that family line — one that embodies what it means to be a champion in the industry.

The Maivia Side of the Family Tree

When Dwayne Johnson was introduced to the WWE Universe, they got to know him as Rocky Maivia. That last name comes with its own weight in professional wrestling. Beginning with the "High Chief" Peter Maivia, this arm of the Anoa'i family dynasty led directly to the one known as The Rock. Peter Maivia is recognized as a "blood brother" to the Anoa'i family, which creates the link that runs down to The Rock and to his children as well. 

Peter Maivia was known throughout multiple territories within the NWA, picking up championships along the way. His 22 years in the industry saw him capture 14 championships before his retirement in 1982 and death later that year. Maivia and his wife, Ofelia "Lia" Fuataga, raised two children, including Ata who married Rocky Johnson — Dwayne's father. 

Both Rocky and Peter are in the WWE Hall of Fame, recognized for their contributions to the industry. The Rock has yet to be inducted into the HOF, but that will change in time. Fans are now watching closely as the next member of the Maivia side, Simone Johnson aka Ava Raine, carves her own path as a member of the WWE NXT roster.

What being Head of the Table means

"Head of the Table" isn't another empty term created by minds behind the scenes in WWE. In fact, it isn't even a new term in the lore of Reigns' run through the company. Back in 2014, before winning his first WWE Championship, Reigns predicted smashing everyone who stood in his way to claim that spot at the top.

Reigns has gone by multiple nicknames during his 12-year run with the company. But none are as fitting as the one he's called himself since his return at SummerSlam in 2020. As the Head of the Table, he's making it clear that his leadership puts food in the mouths of every member of the family. In some regard, he's correct, as this storyline has elevated both The Usos into a career-defining run as tag team champions and introduced the young Solo Sikoa with a main event-level storyline.

At the same time, The Rock can easily make a claim to this same position. His resume stands the test of time when compared to any individual in the Anoa'i family. His presence during the Attitude Era created some of the most memorable moments in WWE history. In some measures, he may be the most famous member of the family, with Roman Reigns simply being known as The Rock's cousin in markets outside professional wrestling. This battle would settle the debate as to who has the best claim to the moniker.

The Rock couldn't keep fans from booing Roman

WWE made a prior attempt to link The Rock and Roman Reigns in the ring together. Think back to 2015. This year saw the first of what would be many crowning achievements in Reigns' solo career. He entered the Royal Rumble in spot number 19. But to win the match, Reigns needed some assistance from his cousin, who saved him from a continued attack at the hands of Big Show and Kane.

After Roman eliminated Rusev to win the event, The Rock jumped back into the ring to celebrate with Reigns. But the fans watching in attendance were not in a celebratory mood. Earlier in the evening the consummate fan favorite, Daniel Bryan, was eliminated early from the Rumble match. Fans responded with boos and chanting his name for the rest of the main event. Reigns winning further exasperated the situation and fans responded in kind. The sight of The Rock in the ring with Reigns didn't help either (via Lehigh Valley Live).

WWE wanted Reigns to be the guy that fans embraced, but the pushback was long and loud from the WWE Universe. It wouldn't be until five years later that he was finally welcomed as the guy for the promotion.

Roman Reigns' claim to Head of the Table

In storyline, Roman Reigns has thoroughly dominated his family members into a position of subjugation. The basis of this perception that he deserves the right at the Head of the Table comes from his long resume of success in the WWE.

In 12 years, Reigns has held nearly every championship the company has to offer. He emerged from The Shield as the man that WWE would put all its creative strength behind. That has led to what fans see today, with Reigns as the WWE Undisputed Champion, carrying the WWE and Universal Championships. The last time Reigns suffered a defeat was on December 15, 2019, at WWE Tables, Ladders, and Chairs 2019 at the hands of Baron Corbin. Even stepping away from the ring for five months in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic couldn't stop his dominance which picked right back up upon his return.

Reigns has seemingly achieved everything there is to do in WWE, but he continues to stretch his success in ways previously unimagined.

The Rock's claim to Head of the Table

The Rock took a longer path to find success in the WWE, but once he reached the top of the card, he became one of the biggest players in the industry.

He reached his own form of success in capturing WWE gold. Along the way he picked up a total of 17 different title reigns, including being a 10-time champion. But one of the biggest differences between the two men is the length of time they would see themselves at the top of the card. The Rock's longest reign came in 2000 when he carried the World Heavyweight Championship for 119 days. That pales in comparison to what Roman has achieved regarding dominance inside the ring.

But one area where The Rock's career easily eclipses that of his family member is as a cross over star. As of December 2022, The Rock has a quickly-growing lists of credits in the entertainment industry including as an actor, director, and writer. He's a featured name in major franchises like "Fast & The Furious" and "Jumanji," while also being in movies like "Red Notice," "Be Cool," and "Moana." He's even stepped into television as the star of "Ballers" and a show based on his own life, "Young Rock." In fact, his star power helped Reigns get his first exposure on the big screen with a part in "Hobbs & Shaw." If Reigns is going to break into the acting world, then he would do well to take cues from his cousin. With so much success of his own, it is understandable why The Rock believes he's the actual Head of the Table (via WrestleTalk).

Roman Reigns hints at a potential match with The Rock

Roman Reigns recognizes the shadow that The Rock casts over his Samoan family in professional wrestling. As far back as 2017, Reigns had to field questions about the possibility of going one-on-one with The Great One. In October of 2017 he spoke with The Mirror about the match, acknowledging it would be a huge deal. But Reigns also made it clear that it's his ring.

"I'm the guy who is still in the ring," Reigns said. "If someone who isn't in the ring every single night wants to come back in the ring, we now call it my yard, so he is going to have to come to me and then we'll go from there. If he wants to get it, then I'm not stepping back for anybody."

In September of 2021 he spoke with Keyshawn Johnson, Jay Williams, and Max Kellerman of ESPN and made it clear that he's the man The Rock will have to face.

"It's the ultimate alpha male showcasing who is going to be the big shark in the take," Reigns said. "I think with everything that I've done, with where I've pushed this persona, and the character work, and my claim, my rightful claim to the head of this table. I don't think there's any other choice. If he ever wanted to get back into a WWE ring, I'm the guy he's going to want to be facing off against."

The Rock talks facing Roman Reigns

As WrestleMania season nears, The Rock continues to mention his cousin and the idea of a potential match. At one point, the talks were amicable, almost acknowledging Roman Reigns as The Tribal Chief. However, that has changed, as The Rock is making claims that everyone knows he's the actual head of the Samoan family dynasty (via E! News).

Take for example, two years ago when The Rock spoke with Hiram Garcia during an episode of "The Rock: Through the Lens." During that conversation The Rock said the following in reference to facing Roman: "The truth is I would be honored to not only share the ring with Roman. I would be honored to have him raise his hand in that one."

Looking for a more recent reference? Then go no further than "Young Rock" where a young Roman made an appearance to demand fans acknowledge him. He then begged to wrestle The Rock who responded: "The world's not ready. A match that big could only happen at WrestleMania."

Perhaps WrestleMania that goes down in Hollywood? Only time will tell.

If Roman Reigns hits Hollywood, he can thank The Rock

Many tried to make it through the pipeline from professional wrestling to Hollywood superstars. Few had mild successes, but none reached the status of The Rock. In 2001 he had his big moment as The Scorpion King in "The Mummy Returns," and since this his acting career has sky rocketed. He is consistently recognized as the highest-grossing actor in the industry (via The National News). If that's a path that Roman Reigns plans to follow, then he will be best served to take cues from his cousin.

When speaking of Reigns, WWE Co-CEO and Director, Nick Khan spoke highly of the champion making that move. "We think he's certainly up there," Khan said on "The Town." "We have big plans to help him cross over, which we think will be great for him and certainly great to do with him."

The Rock and Reigns paired up for "Hobbs & Shaw," where the two played family members that battled against Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) and his attackers. Reigns didn't have a huge part, but the two were featured on screen together during the final battle. If Reigns is going to make an attack on Hollywood, he has the path that his cousin built to begin his journey.

What The Rock vs Roman Reigns would mean for all parties involved

The Rock versus Roman Reigns would be an iconic matchup with crossover appeal. WrestleMania always includes matches that catch the attention of media members beyond professional wrestling. This match would do just that while building stakes for both men and the entire roster.

For The Rock, a victory is a reminder that he's the icon of the Anoa'i family. After what was a less than stellar run as Black Adam (via Looper), perhaps the build to and a big match with Reigns can help The Rock re-establish himself as a box office draw.

For Roman, a victory is the definitive feather in his cap. There wouldn't be any other members of the family that could claim a right to a stake of leadership. From the start he demanded acknowledgement and that's exactly what he would achieve by getting his hand raised while The Rock was down at his feet.

A victory for Roman seems the most likely outcome and his elevation has the potential to benefit the rest of the roster. WWE needs to build new stars for the future, and whoever is the man to defeat Roman Reigns with such an extensive resume should have all the momentum to reach the stars. With that in mind, this match has the potential to benefit whoever is the first one to defeat him after picking up another big win at WrestleMania.